Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to join government as NLD reveals cabinet

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will take a post in U Htin Kyaw’s government, the National League for Democracy has confirmed to parliament.

President-elect U Htin Kyaw submitted a list of 18 proposed ministers, including three from the military, to parliament this morning, with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the top. It did not specify which of the 21 ministries they had been given.

The party leader, who is barred from the presidency by the junta-drafted constitution because her sons are foreign citizens, has been widely tipped for the foreign minister post, which would also give her a position on the 11-member National Defence and Security Council. Reports overnight suggested she would get more than one ministry.

Her position in the government will require her to abstain from party activities, as per section 232(k) of the constitution.

Others listed include former Yangon University rector U Aung Thu, who is expected to get the agriculture ministry, and U Pe Myint, a noted writer, who will likely be minister for information.

Two Union Solidarity and Development Party members, former MP Thura U Aung Ko and current MP U Thein Swe, have been nominated. Thura U Aung Ko is likely to become minister for religion and culture, having previously served as deputy minister for religious affairs. U Thein Swe is a former minister for transport. Both served under the military junta.

Another nominee from outside the NLD, Mon National Party vice chair Naing Thet Lwin, is expected to head the new Ministry of Ethnic Affairs. 

Others nominated include U Than Myint from the party’s economic committee and U Myint Htwe, a former technocrat in the United Nations.

Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing put forward Lieutenant General Sein Win, Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe and Lieutenant General Ye Aung to head the ministries of Defence, Home Affairs and Border Affairs.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is also the only woman nominated by the NLD for a ministerial post.

Parliament still needs to approve the list of ministers, but can only reject nominees if they do not fit the broad criteria outlined in the constitution.

Minister list:

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
U Aung Thu
U Than Zin Maung
Thura U Aung Ko
U Ohn Win
U Thein Swe
U Kyaw Win
U Khin Maung Cho
U Myint Htwe
U Win Khaing
U Win Myat Aye
U Ohn Maung
U Than Myint
Naing Thet Lwin
U Pe Myint
Lieutenant General Sein Win
Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe
Lieutenant General Ye Aung

By The Myanmar Times   |   Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Little Tibet in Myanmar

The view was stunning: From the summit at 5150 metres (16,895 feet) above sea level, snow-capped peaks could be seen in all directions, dazzling against a deep blue sky. Looking north, there were Hkakaborazi and Gamlangrazi, Southeast Asia’s highest mountains, some 700m higher than our vantage point.


Below us was a relatively broad valley at 4300m with a kilometre-long dark blue lake in the centre. We could see a tiny snow trail leading from the pass below, winding its way toward China and Tibet. We heard there was a trading post a couple of days’ walk away in the very high mountains. There, medical roots and herbs from the Himalayas could be exchanged for salt, tea and consumer products. The TVs and pocket radios we had seen in the villages we had passed through had come from there.

The day before, we had arrived at our base camp at about 4500m. It had taken us some 145 kilometres (90 miles) of arduous trekking to get there, following the course of the rivers on rugged, small trails, crossing hundreds of smaller and larger streams and dozens of slippery, flimsy bamboo bridges, some 80m long and high above the foaming rivers.

Two weeks before, our local guide had welcomed us at Puta-o airport in northern Kachin State. From there we continued with a gang of young motorcycle riders who took pride in taking the muddy trails and river crossings at top speed. They dropped us off at the small village of Gawle, our muscles aching from keeping balance. Next day we crossed a ridge to the village of Pangnamdim on the Tamai River.

Our core group was composed of four: two Austrians with a passion for the Himalayas; U Ah Yin, a local Rawang, born in the area, fleet and steady of foot despite his 70 years; and a cook.

We also engaged local porters, as everything we needed had to be carried with us.

With the winter paddy fields ripe for harvest and the November 2015 election only days away, to find the 10 or so porters we needed turned into quite a task.

The footpath from Pangnamdim is narrow, rugged and slippery, and – high above the river – often dangerous. For the first week we traversed thick forest, falling into a routine of walking, packing and unpacking, stopping for simple meals.

Eight days on the road brought us to the village of Gawai, one of the most remote polling stations in the country and catering to 28 eligible voters. In the evening we sat jam-packed in the house of the village head, watching election reports from all over the country on the village television.

The next day we reached Dazungdam village, from where we turned northwest toward the Seinkhu valley. Here we took on eight cheerful boys and girls in their early 20s as porters. Our admiration for their speed and sure-footedness on the slippery path, and their easy-going and fun attitude, only grew along the way. Their high spirits were tempered only when temperatures dropped far below zero. Our cook could set up a kitchen anywhere and feed 15 people from a single wok, morning, noon and night.

Around the fire in the evenings, we spoke about the mountains, the people, the opportunities and concerns. “The worst would be if they built a road. Then all this would be gone. On the other side of the border there is already nothing left,” said U Ah Yin.

Conservation is already important. Apart from a mongoose that crossed our trail we did not see any wild animals. Being in the Hkakaborazi National Park, which is considered a global biodiversity hotspot, we had hoped to see some larger animals such as deer or takin, or at least some bigger birds. But even smaller birds were rare. Mostly what we saw was leeches, sand flies and a few gigantic ticks. Every villager we met carried a slingshot or a crossbow with poisoned arrows.

Neither did we see a single snake, though these forests are a serpent paradise. The American herpetologist Joe Slowinski died in 2001 in the remote village of Rat Baw from the bite of the deadly multi-banded krait, an account detailed in Jamie James’ nonfiction book The Snake Charmer.

Dazungdam marked the last village mainly inhabited by the Rawang, an ethnic Kachin tribe of some 60,000 to 90,000 people. The path then turned steep and much rougher than before, marking a different and more alpine zone. Over the next two days we climbed every day for at least 1000m. Finally, after 11 days of walking, we entered the world of the Himalayas and with it, the Little Tibet of Myanmar.

Mading (2550m) was the first Tibetan village we reached, via three lofty bamboo bridges and a number of climbs along ladders and ropes. Colourful prayer flags welcomed us. The Tibetan homes were built to withstand a much harsher climate than the bamboo Rawang houses farther down.

The houses were surrounded by corn and barley fields, and draft cattle ploughing the soil. We stopped in the house of the local lama, and over butter tea, hot milk and roasted corn inquired how best to reach Malikhurazi (4907m), our destination.
What we learned was heartening and discouraging at the same time. The villagers consider Malikhurazi, which is the source of the Malikha River, a sacred mountain, placed by Lord Buddha himself. Any animal or human approaching too close will fall sick or die. We decided to scout for other peaks farther up the valley.

Two days later we set up a base camp at a soft plateau above the Seinkhu valley from where we continued, walking slowly in the high altitude, to Lama La, the high pass at about 5050m. There, under the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags and looking down on majestic peaks in India, Myanmar and China, we realised that most of the unnamed peaks we had seen on Google Earth were out of reach. To scout them properly and find a safe access route would have taken at least another two or three days. We opted for a smaller peak adjacent to the pass with an ascent over a rocky stone field and a final steep ridge climb. We solemnly built a stone man on the summit, placed a flag beneath it with dates and names, and claimed the peak as “Austriacorazi”.

And then it was back to civilisation. Soon swallowed up again by the tropical forest and confined by the rhythm of the river trail, the descent was as exhausting as the climb, though nothing could dampen our happiness. How many places on earth are still so remote, so unspoiled and so unexplored? We felt honoured to have experienced its isolation, distinctiveness and beauty.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that in the Himalayas there are a number of hidden, mystical and outstandingly beautiful places called beyuls – sacred places that can be reached only through hardship, and where life is said to survive even if the rest of the world were destroyed. It is a nice thought that in the Himalayas such a hidden valley exists, adding another piece to the jigsaw puzzle that makes up the many faces of Myanmar.

By Christian Hainzl   |   Friday, 26 February 2016

Credit : Myanmar Times

Upgraded bus system to kick off next week

A Bus Rapid Transit system, designed to relieve traffic congestion in Yangon and increase the safety of commuters, is aiming to launch the second week of February.


“We will do a test run on February 7 for phase one and we will officially run on February 9,” said U Maung Aung, chair of the establishment committee.

At present, 18 buses have arrived in Myanmar that will run from Htaukkyant to 8 Mile junction, from where buses will travel along both Pyay and Kabar Aye Pagoda roads making a total of 23 stops.

At the end of February, when another 45 buses will arrive, the committee hopes to start phase 2, which counts 27 bus stops and covers routes connecting Hlaing Tharyar to 8 Mile, Dagon University to Parami Road, and Thilawa special economic zone to Botahtaung Pagoda Road.Over 80 percent of Yangon’s 5.7 million resident rely on public transportation made up of privately owned lines that, according to the committee’s chair, are badly disciplined and refuse to take responsibility when accidents occur.

“We want to reduce the time that the commuters waste on busses, sometimes two or three hours a day, and travel should be more comfortable,” said U Maung Aung.

If the new bus system is a success, the committee intends to increase up to 100 buses.

The “BRT lite” scheme is based on a plan drawn up in 2013 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for a BRT system intended to cover much of the city. The less-ambitious version was chosen because it costs less than the original plan.

The left-hand-drive buses will be air-conditioned and four CCTV cameras will be installed inside. The buses will run in the right lane and also normal buses can use this lane, but they need to favour the BRT buses.

“If the system is a success, everybody will use the BRT and they will no longer use their cars,” said U Maung Aung.

The committee recruited bus drivers through an advertisement in state-owned newspapers and 21 bus drivers have already been assigned.

They will receive a monthly salary of about K400,000. Most bus drivers on privately owned buses get paid on commission, which prompts competition between bus lines with dangerous road situations as a result.

Ticket fares will be K300, after initial fears of commuters that it would be much higher than the current fares ranging from K100 to K300. The new buses will use an iPay system in addition to collecting the fares in cash.

“At the start, we will give free tickets to commuters that will include K1000 credit. The conductors will show customers how to use the system,” said director U Ko Kyaw Zaya from Integrated Smart Solutions Company which is responsible for the payment system.

The project has an estimated cost of K25 billion (US$22.97 million).

By Aye Nyein Win   |   Wednesday, 03 February 2016

 Credit : Myanmar Times






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